Contrary to popular belief, it is never too late to learn how to play ice hockey. There are recreational ice hockey leagues featuring adult teams across the UK, catering for a great choice of skillsets. Being part of a recreational ice hockey team offers great camaraderie and social opportunities, but most importantly it is fantastic exercise, given that this is one of the fastest-paced sports around. Typically, players will burn between 400 and 700 calories per game!
If ice hockey sounds like a sport that you could get on board with, read on as we detail all the aspects to consider when learning the game at an older age.
Knowing how to skate is a prerequisite
If you like the idea of becoming part of an amateur ice hockey team, the first hurdle to overcome is learning how to skate on the ice. If you can’t already skate, you will need some lessons pronto to get you up to speed. Most local rinks will offer ice skating lessons. The National Ice Centre in Milton Keynes offers a beginners’ Skate Hockey course aimed at adults as well as youngsters. It will equip you with the techniques necessary to skate the ice hockey way, to help you glide across the ice and be fluid with your movement. One of the main techniques you will have to master is the ‘hockey stop’. You will need to be able to stop your movement as quickly as possible during games to change direction. Given that the flat rubber disk of the hockey puck weighs no more than six ounces and can move at a rate of knots.
Understanding the basic rules, penalties and game dynamics
First and foremost, you’ll need to appreciate that the ice hockey rink is split into three sections – the defensive zone, the neutral zone and the offensive zone. There are six possible positions you can play – goal tender, left or right defence, centre forward and left or right forward.
The left and right wing forwards typically need the most energy as they have defensive responsibilities and are also required to set up and score goals. One of the greatest skills a forward needs on the rink is to know when to change through the gears and up the tempo. Switching quickly from defence to attack and travelling with the puck can change the momentum of a game fast. If you like strategical games such as poker, you know that the chances are you will have to learn when to sit tight and when to be aggressive in tournaments. It’s a fine line between success and failure.
During a game, penalties are awarded for a string of minor issues and additional forms of misconduct. These can cover anything from interference with an opposing player not in possession, holding an opponent back throughout to hooking a player with your stick. Whenever a penalty is given to the opposing team, they will have a ‘power play’, giving them a one-man advantage with the penalised player having to step off the rink for anything from two minutes up to an entire match.
How to register for an ice hockey team in the UK
Once you have met and trained with your ice hockey team of choice, you will need to formally register as a team member. Your new team will provide you with a EHIA registration form that must be completed and submitted along with a photocopy of any photo identification, such as a driving licence or passport. You will also need two passport photos to be attached to your registration form too. The registration fee paid to the EIHA comes in at £50 and must be paid before your first two weeks of training. During this fortnight window, you will have the opportunity not to register as a first-time player.
If you decide the sport is not for you, you can opt to have your registration fee and forms returned to you. We’re pretty confident that you’ll love it though once you’ve got to grips with skating and the basic rules of the game.